Are you planning a trip to Indianapolis and wondering what makes the city’s culinary scene unique? Look no further than this ultimate guide to Indianapolis cuisine. From farm-to-table dining to innovative takes on classic Midwest dishes, Indianapolis has something to offer every palate.
In this guide, we’ll explore the history and culture behind Indianapolis’ food scene, from its rich culinary traditions to the vibrant contemporary chefs and restaurants that are redefining the city’s cuisine.
Whether you’re a foodie looking to discover the newest hotspots or simply curious about what makes Indianapolis cuisine so special, this guide is your definitive source for all things food-related in the city. So grab a fork and join us on a journey through the sights, sounds, and flavors of Indianapolis cuisine.
Exploring Indianapolis’ Rich Culinary History
Indianapolis is a city steeped in rich culinary history that has been shaped by a diverse range of cultural influences. From the city’s early pioneers to its modern-day chefs, Indy’s food scene has always been driven by innovation and a commitment to using locally-sourced, high-quality ingredients. Today, Indianapolis boasts a thriving food culture that celebrates the city’s past while embracing the future.
One of the most important figures in Indianapolis’ culinary history is James Beard, the celebrated cookbook author and TV personality who was born in Portland, a neighborhood of Indianapolis. Beard’s influence can be seen in the city’s vibrant culinary scene, which features a diverse range of restaurants and cafes that serve up everything from classic comfort food to innovative, cutting-edge cuisine.
Another important part of Indianapolis’ culinary heritage is the city’s deep connection to agriculture. Indianapolis has long been a center for farming and agriculture, and this tradition is reflected in the city’s love of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. From heirloom tomatoes to farm-raised pork, Indy’s chefs and food artisans are dedicated to showcasing the best that the region has to offer.
Whether you’re a food lover, a history buff, or simply someone looking to explore a new city, Indianapolis’ culinary history is a story that is not to be missed. With a rich and varied food culture that celebrates the city’s past while embracing the future, there’s no better time to discover what makes Indy’s food scene so unique.
The Influence of Native American and Pioneer Cuisine
Bison: One of the most significant sources of meat for Native Americans and pioneers alike was bison, and it remains a staple of Indianapolis cuisine today.
Corn: The indigenous people of Indiana cultivated corn, and it quickly became a dietary staple for everyone in the region. It’s now a common ingredient in many Indianapolis dishes, including cornbread and succotash.
Wild Berries: The area around Indianapolis was home to a variety of wild berries, including strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. They were often used in pies, jams, and other sweet dishes.
Potatoes: Potatoes were introduced to the region by European settlers and quickly became a popular food item. They were often used in stews, soups, and other savory dishes.
Apples: Apples were brought to Indiana by European settlers and were used in a variety of dishes, including pies and applesauce.
Native American and pioneer cuisine had a significant impact on Indianapolis’ culinary history. The region’s early inhabitants relied heavily on locally sourced ingredients and developed unique cooking methods and flavor profiles that continue to influence the city’s food scene today.
How German and Irish Immigrants Shaped Indianapolis’ Food Scene
The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a massive influx of German and Irish immigrants to Indianapolis, bringing with them their own unique culinary traditions. German immigrants were instrumental in introducing beer gardens and delicatessens to the city, while Irish immigrants established pubs and eateries. These immigrant groups were also influential in shaping the city’s love for hearty comfort foods, such as sausages, stews, and breads.
German and Irish immigrants also made significant contributions to Indianapolis’ agricultural industry, with many establishing farms and markets that supplied the city with fresh produce, meat, and dairy products. Their emphasis on quality ingredients and farm-to-table dining practices laid the foundation for the city’s vibrant food scene today.
Today, many restaurants in Indianapolis still honor the culinary traditions of German and Irish immigrants. Diners can enjoy classic dishes like corned beef and cabbage, bratwurst, and schnitzel, or explore contemporary interpretations of these classics.
Must-Try Restaurants and Cafes in Indianapolis
Indianapolis is home to a diverse range of dining options, from upscale restaurants to casual cafes. Here are five must-try spots that showcase the city’s unique culinary scene:
Milktooth – This popular brunch spot is known for its creative menu, featuring dishes like waffles with smoked salmon and poached eggs, and a “dutch baby” pancake with smoked apricot and almond.
Bluebeard – This trendy spot in the Fletcher Place neighborhood serves up elevated American fare with a focus on seasonal ingredients. Don’t miss the bone marrow toast or the charred octopus.
Café Patachou – With multiple locations around the city, Café Patachou is a go-to for breakfast and lunch. The menu includes classic egg dishes, sandwiches, and salads made with locally-sourced ingredients.
King Dough – This Neapolitan-style pizza joint in the Holy Cross neighborhood is a favorite among locals. Try the “Fun Guy” pizza with mushrooms, truffle oil, and garlic cream.
Black Market – This gastropub in the City Market building offers a rotating menu of dishes made with ingredients sourced from local farmers and producers. Pair your meal with a craft beer or creative cocktail.
If you’re looking for the perfect spot for a lazy Sunday brunch in Indianapolis, look no further! We’ve put together a list of the best brunch spots in the city, sure to satisfy all your cravings.
First up is The Garden Table, a farm-to-table restaurant with a cozy atmosphere and delicious, healthy brunch options. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, head to Milktooth, known for its delectable pastries and creative breakfast dishes.
For a more upscale brunch experience, check out Rook, a modern Asian fusion restaurant with a mouth-watering brunch menu. If you’re a fan of classic brunch fare, Good Morning Mama’s Cafe is the place to go for fluffy pancakes, crispy bacon, and savory omelets.
Finally, if you’re looking for a unique brunch experience, head to Love Handle, a small, quirky restaurant with creative dishes and a constantly-changing menu. No matter where you go, these brunch spots are sure to start your day off right!
From Farm-to-Table: Restaurants that Embrace the Local Food Movement
If you’re looking to support local farmers and taste the freshest ingredients, Indianapolis has plenty of restaurants that prioritize the farm-to-table movement. Here are some top picks:
- The Loft at Traders Point Creamery: This restaurant is located on a dairy farm and offers a menu that features dairy products and produce grown on-site.
- Bluebeard: With a menu that changes daily based on the availability of local ingredients, this restaurant is a staple in the local food scene.
- Cerulean: This restaurant sources ingredients from local farms and creates dishes that showcase the flavors of Indiana.
- Public Greens: This restaurant not only sources ingredients from local farms, but also donates a portion of their profits to support urban agriculture initiatives in the city.
- The Garden Table: With a focus on sustainability and community, this restaurant sources ingredients from local farms and offers a menu that caters to all dietary needs.
By choosing to dine at these farm-to-table restaurants, you not only support local farmers and businesses, but also get to taste the freshest and most delicious ingredients that Indianapolis has to offer.
The Best Dishes and Drinks that Define Indianapolis’ Food Culture
Breaded Pork Tenderloin: This sandwich is a Hoosier classic and a must-try for anyone visiting Indianapolis. The pork tenderloin is pounded thin, breaded, and fried until crispy. It’s then served on a bun with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. You can find this dish at many restaurants throughout the city.
Beer: Indianapolis has a thriving craft beer scene, with many local breweries offering unique and flavorful brews. Sun King Brewery and Fountain Square Brewing Co. are two popular choices for beer enthusiasts.
Shrimp Cocktail: This classic appetizer is said to have originated in Indianapolis at the St. Elmo Steak House. The dish consists of large, succulent shrimp served with a spicy cocktail sauce. It’s a must-try for seafood lovers.
Sugar Cream Pie: This dessert is a staple of Indiana’s culinary history. It’s a custard pie made with heavy cream, sugar, and flour, and topped with cinnamon. Locals say it’s the state’s unofficial pie.
Tenderloin Martini: This unique drink can be found at Bluebeard, a popular restaurant in the city. The cocktail is made with vodka, pickles, and a splash of pickle juice. It’s then garnished with a mini breaded pork tenderloin, paying homage to the city’s beloved sandwich.
Tenderloin Sandwich: A Local Classic That You Can’t Miss
The tenderloin sandwich is a quintessential dish that represents the heart of Indianapolis’ food scene. This iconic sandwich is made with a large, breaded and fried pork tenderloin that is served on a soft bun with traditional toppings like lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
While there are many variations of the tenderloin sandwich across the city, each restaurant adds its own unique twist to the recipe, making it an exciting and delicious experience for locals and visitors alike.
Some of the best places to try this classic dish include Mug-n-Bun, the Steer-In, and the Workingman’s Friend. These local favorites have been serving up their version of the tenderloin sandwich for decades and have become beloved institutions in Indianapolis.
Hoosier Pie: A Sweet and Savory Treat That Tells the Story of Indiana
History: Hoosier Pie, also known as Sugar Cream Pie, is a traditional dessert that originated in Indiana in the 19th century. It was a favorite among Amish and Shaker communities in the area, and it quickly became a staple at church suppers and family gatherings.
Ingredients: The simple recipe consists of a buttery pie crust filled with a custard made from cream, sugar, and flour. The filling is then topped with a sprinkling of cinnamon or nutmeg and baked until golden brown.
Variations: While the classic Hoosier Pie remains popular, there are many variations that incorporate different flavors such as chocolate, maple, and even pumpkin. Some recipes also include a savory twist by adding cheese or bacon to the filling.
Cultural Significance: Hoosier Pie is a beloved dessert that represents the history and culture of Indiana. It has been recognized as the official state pie since 2009 and is often served at events and celebrations throughout the state.
Where to Find It: Many bakeries and restaurants in Indiana offer their own version of Hoosier Pie, but some of the best can be found at local diners and cafes such as Gray Brothers Cafeteria in Mooresville and Mrs. Wick’s Pies in Winchester.
Craft Beer: How Indianapolis’ Breweries Are Putting the City on the Map
Indianapolis has a thriving craft beer scene, with numerous breweries producing unique and flavorful beers. Many of these breweries have won awards and gained recognition on a national level, putting the city on the map for beer lovers.
Collaboration is a key aspect of the craft beer community in Indianapolis. Many breweries collaborate with each other, as well as with local farmers and businesses, to create unique and innovative beers that showcase local ingredients.
One of the most popular breweries in Indianapolis is Three Floyds Brewing Company, which has been named one of the best breweries in the world. Their flagship beer, Zombie Dust, is a must-try for any beer enthusiast.
Small and independent breweries are also thriving in Indianapolis. Many of these breweries are located in historic buildings and offer tours and tastings for visitors.
Seasonal beers are another highlight of the craft beer scene in Indianapolis. Breweries offer unique beers to celebrate holidays and special occasions, such as pumpkin beers for Halloween and Christmas ales for the holiday season.
If you’re a beer lover, be sure to add Indianapolis to your list of destinations. With its thriving craft beer scene and unique breweries, you’re sure to find a beer that suits your taste.
Where to Find the Freshest Ingredients in Indianapolis
If you’re looking for the freshest ingredients in Indianapolis, you’re in luck. Here are some places you should check out:
Farmers Markets: Indy has plenty of farmers markets, but some of the best include the Broad Ripple Farmers Market, the City Market Farmers Market, and the Original Farmers Market at the Indianapolis City Market. These markets are known for their wide variety of fresh produce, meats, and baked goods.
Local Farms: Another great option for fresh ingredients is to go straight to the source. There are many local farms around Indianapolis that offer pick-your-own produce, as well as farm stands where you can purchase fresh produce and other products.
Grocery Stores: Indy is home to a variety of grocery stores that specialize in fresh and organic produce, such as Goose the Market, Pogue’s Run Grocer, and Wildwood Market. These stores often source their products locally, ensuring the freshest possible ingredients.
CSAs: Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs are another great way to get fresh, local ingredients. By joining a CSA, you can get a regular supply of fresh produce and other products directly from local farmers.
Whether you’re a home cook or a professional chef, using fresh ingredients is key to making delicious meals. With so many options for fresh ingredients in Indianapolis, there’s no excuse not to eat well.
City Farmers’ Markets: Where to Buy Fresh Produce and More
If you’re looking for fresh, locally grown produce and other goods, look no further than the city’s farmers’ markets. These markets offer a variety of items from local farmers and artisans, making them a great place to shop for ingredients and unique gifts.
- Indy Winter Farmers’ Market: Held indoors during the winter months, this market features over 80 vendors selling everything from produce to baked goods.
- Original Farmers’ Market: Located at the Indianapolis City Market, this market is open year-round and features vendors selling fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and more.
- Binford Farmers’ Market: This market is open on Saturdays and features local produce, meat, eggs, honey, and more.
- Broad Ripple Farmers’ Market: Held on Saturdays, this market features local vendors selling produce, baked goods, flowers, and more.
- Irvington Farmers’ Market: Open on Sundays, this market features local vendors selling produce, meats, eggs, honey, and more.
By shopping at these farmers’ markets, you can support local farmers and artisans while also getting the freshest, most flavorful ingredients for your meals.
From Field to Fork: The Best Farms for Farm-to-Table Eating
- Traders Point Creamery: Located in Zionsville, Traders Point Creamery offers organic, grass-fed dairy products and a farm-to-table restaurant featuring seasonal dishes made with fresh ingredients from the farm.
- Spencer Farm: In Noblesville, Spencer Farm has a farmer’s market, U-pick berries, and a CSA program for fresh produce. They also offer farm-to-table dinners featuring local chefs and their fresh ingredients.
- Tuttle Orchards: Tuttle Orchards is a family-owned farm in Greenfield that has been operating for over 90 years. They offer U-pick fruit, a farmer’s market, and a cafe featuring farm-to-table dishes made with their fresh ingredients.
- St. Joseph Brewery and Public House: In Indianapolis, St. Joseph Brewery and Public House sources their ingredients from local farms to make their craft beer and farm-to-table menu.
- Capriole Farms: Located in Greenville, Capriole Farms is known for their artisanal goat cheeses made with milk from their own goats. They offer tours of the farm and a farm-to-table restaurant featuring their cheeses in dishes.
If you’re looking for a farm-to-table experience in Indianapolis, these farms and restaurants are a great place to start. Supporting local farms not only helps the community and economy but also ensures that you’re getting the freshest and most sustainable ingredients possible.
Indianapolis’ Food Co-ops: Where Community and Sustainability Meet
If you’re looking for a more community-focused approach to food shopping, then look no further than Indianapolis’ food co-ops. These cooperatives prioritize sustainability, locally-sourced products, and a sense of community. Some of the best food co-ops in the city include the Fall Creek, Pogue’s Run, and Green Bean Delivery.
At Fall Creek, you can find a range of organic and locally-sourced produce, as well as bulk goods and prepared foods. Pogue’s Run emphasizes community involvement through their community garden and educational programs. Green Bean Delivery delivers fresh, organic produce and other goods straight to your door, reducing food waste and promoting sustainable practices.
Other benefits of shopping at food co-ops include lower prices, a focus on supporting local farmers and producers, and a chance to connect with other like-minded individuals in your community. Plus, you can feel good knowing that your food choices are having a positive impact on the environment and supporting sustainable agriculture.
Unique Food Events and Festivals You Can’t Miss in Indianapolis
If you’re a foodie, you won’t want to miss the Indy Food Truck Battle, where the city’s top food trucks compete for the title of “Best Food Truck.”
Devour Indy is a bi-annual event where top restaurants across Indianapolis offer special deals on prix-fixe menus, giving diners a chance to try some of the city’s best eats at a discounted price.
The Indiana State Fair is known for its unique food offerings, from deep-fried Oreos to giant turkey legs. Don’t miss out on the chance to try these one-of-a-kind fair foods.
The Indianapolis Greek Festival is a celebration of all things Greek, including delicious traditional Greek food like spanakopita and moussaka, as well as live music and dancing.
Indy Taco Week: A Celebration of Mexican Cuisine in Indianapolis
If you’re a fan of tacos and Mexican cuisine, then you won’t want to miss Indy Taco Week. This annual event takes place in September and features a variety of restaurants and food trucks serving up unique and delicious taco creations.
During Indy Taco Week, you’ll have the opportunity to try tacos with unconventional fillings like Korean bulgogi, Nashville hot chicken, and even vegan options like jackfruit or tofu.
In addition to traditional meat and vegetable tacos, you can also find fusion tacos that blend Mexican flavors with other cuisines, such as Korean, Indian, or Italian.
Indy Taco Week is a great opportunity to explore the city’s vibrant food scene and support local restaurants and food trucks. With dozens of participating locations, you’re sure to find new favorites and return year after year.
The Indiana State Fair: A Showcase of Hoosier Food and Agriculture
The Indiana State Fair is a beloved annual event that showcases the best of Hoosier food and agriculture. Visitors can indulge in a wide range of delicious foods, including classic fair favorites like corn dogs, funnel cakes, and lemon shake-ups. But the fair is also a great place to sample more unique and creative dishes featuring locally-sourced ingredients. Be sure to try the famous Indiana breaded tenderloin sandwich, a culinary icon of the state.
In addition to food, the fair offers a variety of agricultural exhibitions and competitions, from livestock shows to tractor pulls. Visitors can also explore the Indiana Arts Building, which showcases the work of talented artists and craftspeople from around the state.
One of the highlights of the fair is the famous Pioneer Village, which offers a glimpse into life in 19th-century Indiana. Visitors can see historical demonstrations of blacksmithing, weaving, and candle making, among other trades.
The Indiana State Fair is a beloved tradition for many Hoosiers, and it’s easy to see why. With so much delicious food, fascinating agricultural exhibits, and family-friendly fun, it’s a can’t-miss event for anyone visiting Indianapolis in the summer months.
Brewers of Indiana Guild Winterfest: A Beer Festival to Warm You Up in Winter
If you’re a beer lover, you won’t want to miss the Brewers of Indiana Guild Winterfest, held each year in January in Indianapolis. This festival brings together over 100 breweries from all over Indiana and the Midwest, serving up more than 400 different types of beer.
Winterfest isn’t just about the beer, though. You’ll also find plenty of great food from local vendors, as well as live music and other entertainment to keep you entertained throughout the day.
One of the unique things about Winterfest is the location. It’s held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, in the spacious and heated Champions Pavilion. This means you can enjoy all the fun of a winter festival without having to worry about the cold weather.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the must-try local specialties in Indianapolis?
Indianapolis is known for its pork tenderloin sandwiches, sugar cream pie, and breaded pork tenderloin. These dishes are a must-try for anyone visiting the city.
What are some popular farm-to-table restaurants in Indianapolis?
Some popular farm-to-table restaurants in Indianapolis include Bluebeard, Milktooth, and The Garden Table. These restaurants source their ingredients from local farms and provide guests with fresh and seasonal dishes.
What food events take place in Indianapolis?
There are several food events that take place in Indianapolis, including the Indy Taco Week, the Indiana State Fair, and the Brewers of Indiana Guild Winterfest. These events showcase the city’s diverse food scene and offer a chance to try new dishes and drinks.
Where can I find the freshest ingredients in Indianapolis?
The Indianapolis City Market and the Broad Ripple Farmers’ Market are great places to find fresh ingredients in the city. Local farms like Tyner Pond Farm and Wild’s Apple Farm also offer fresh produce and meats.
Are there any food co-ops in Indianapolis?
Yes, there are several food co-ops in Indianapolis, including Pogue’s Run Grocer and the Community Controlled Food Initiative. These co-ops focus on community and sustainability and offer locally sourced and organic foods.
What are some popular food neighborhoods in Indianapolis?
Massachusetts Avenue (Mass Ave) and Fountain Square are two popular food neighborhoods in Indianapolis. They offer a variety of restaurants and bars that showcase the city’s diverse culinary scene, from traditional American to international cuisines.